Hair loss can be emotionally painful, and these days it is one of the most common conditions seen in men and women!
Most often, we treat hair loss or alopecia as a problem that will go away on its own and don’t pay attention. But hair loss, apart from being due to stress, genes and pollution can be an indicator of some other medical problem. Here’s a comprehensive list of what hair loss could be a sign of.
- Hormonal problems: This is especially true of women. A hormonal imbalance could indicate polycystic ovarian syndrome or other hormonal imbalances. Low testosterone in men can cause less facial and body hair to develop. Hair loss is one of the symptoms of hypothyroidism, commonly seen in middle aged women.
- Cancer: The big `C’ is certainly an important reason of hair loss. Many cancers like lymphomas, prolactinomas, neuroblastomas and pituitary tumours can cause hair loss.
- Chemotherapy: Apart from cancer itself, chemotherapy, a treatment for cancer can cause temporary hair loss as a side effect. However, the hair grows back after a period of time. Drugs used to treat heart problems, arthritis and depression may show hair loss as a side effect.
- Skin infections: Skin problems of a fungal nature such as ringworm, seborrhoeic dermatitis and tinea capitis and viral infections like herpes zoster can trigger hair loss. Once the condition is treated, the hair grows back.
- Obsessive compulsive disorder: This psychiatric disorder can manifest in the form of pulling out one’s hair if one doesn’t like the texture or some other reason. The person needs counselling and psychotherapy to combat OCD. Trichotillomania is a problem in which the person habitually pulls out hair from scalp or even eyebrows leading to bald patches. It is important to identify and promptly treat this condition to avoid permanent baldness.
- Nutritional deficiency: In developing nations such as ours, many people do not get a healthy and varied diet which should comprise of zinc, iron, protein or biotin, which are essential for hair growth. Too much vitamin A called as hypervitaminosis A may also cause hair loss.
- Sudden severe stress: When the body is exposed to a severe episode of stress such as high fever, sudden death of a loved one or any other emotional or physical stress, hair loss results. This is called telogen effluvium and once the stressful situation passes, the normalcy of hair growth is restored.
- Alopecia areata: In this autoimmune disorder, the body’s immune system attacks it’s own hair follicles leading to patches of hair loss. It is common in children and in young adults it may affect the scalp and other areas like eyelashes, eyebrows, beard and moustache.
- Skin disorders: Psoriasis, lichen planus and some types of lupus lead to scarring. Permanent hair loss may occur in the scarred areas.
- Overuse of hair styling products and treatment: If you have the urge to constantly subject your hair to perming, straightening or ironing, the hair may protest by falling off. Also tying up your hair too tight on a regular basis may cause traction alopecia and hair loss.
Photograph via sxc.hu
Written by Dr Nisreen Nakhoda, General Physician
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